The first full year of Obamacare implementation was pretty much an unqualified success, despite all the best efforts of Republicans to defeat it. The ongoing theme of 2014 was Obamacare working really, really well, and Republicans continuing to beat the repeal drum, and massively, laughably failing at every attempt to come up with a replacement plan.
A review of 12 months of Obamacare news shows just how baked in the theme of politics completely at odds with policy is. Head below the jump to see it unfold.
In January, the first Obamacare policies kicked in and even this stalwart opponent ended up calling it a "godsend." Sen. and rump House Speaker Ted Cruz tried again to shut down the government over funding the law, and failed, while House Republicans flailed around some more trying to figure out a replacement plan. Meanwhile, enrollments continued at a brisk pace while the Kochs continued to spend big to make people hate it.
Gallup issued a new survey in February showing that the number of uninsured people in the country dropped to a five year low. The "horror stories" from Republicans and opponents of the law continued to unravel, keeping fact-checkers fully employed.
House Republicans still bumbled along with trying to craft a replacement plan in March, a recurring theme for 2014. While they were fiddling, millions were signing up for insurance to beat the deadline. As a harbinger of things to come, the possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court considering a bogus challenge to federal subsidies in 36 states reared its head. That would be the challenge to subsidies being provided to people who purchase insurance on the federal exchange that 36 states use, because of some sloppy writing in the law.
In April health insurers crowed that they were providing insurance to millions more people, bursting a Republican hope balloon. The Koch ads, however, continued, as did the debunking. Gallup released a key report showing that the law was working really, really well, but mostly in the states that made an effort to make it work.
Of course, in May Republicans were still messing around with that whole "replace" thing and of course there were more debunked horror stories from the Kochs. At the same time, the slow down in health care spending became more pronounced, showing that the law was working beyond just getting more people insured. Speaking of which, final enrollment numbers from the government showed 8 million enrollments. Those numbers fluctuated through the year, because individual life changes mean insurance changes, but there could be no denying that the law did what it was supposed to do.
Gallup proved that in June, releasing another survey showing just how many people were no longer uninsured—the lowest rate in six years. Oh, and by the way, the law created jobs, as June's job report demonstrated. And that replacement plan? Yeah, right.
The big news in July was how much Medicare was saving, in large part thanks to the law. Well, that and the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision that actually came down the last day of June. In that ruling, the court ruled that employers get to dictate the health care choices of their female employees. Because freedom. Meanwhile, two of the biggest stakeholders in the law—insurance companies and hospitals—reported good profits from the law. Oh, and that ridiculous law suit by House Republicans against President Obama for doing that thing they tried to make happen was launched.
That good Medicare news kept on churning out in August, with the CBO having to revise their estimates—again—on Medicare spending. Medicaid enrollments topped 7 million, and leading the nation in reducing the rate of uninsured were two surprising states—Arkansas and Kentucky. That was thanks to Medicaid expansion.
September was a very, very good month. Three studies converged to show the lowest rate of uninsurance in years. A comprehensive study of premiums under Obamacare showed that they were affordable across the nation, and the first information on premiums for 2015 showed that rate hikes would continue to be very modest, and in some areas, premiums would in fact go down. Oh, and many more insurers were signing up to sell policies on the exchanges, increasing competition and helping to hold down premiums. And yet again, health care spending continued to slow.
In October it was definite: premiums were not going to skyrocket in 2015. Those affordable premiums are made even more so by the subsidies about 80 percent of people get to purchase insurance. That could change in 2015, though, thanks to the Supreme Court's October decision to hear that bogus challenge against the exchanges.
That bogus law suit House Republicans voted for back in July? They finally filed it at the end of November. Republicans, of course, swept the House and Senate, leaving Mitch McConnell holding the repeal bag, and no, they still don't have a replacement plan. They'll have to vote to repeal it in the face of the fact that people how have Obamacare overwhelmingly approve of the quality and the affordability of their new insurance. But McConnell has a plan, as he admitted in December: make the Supreme Court do it.
The end of the year finds the uninsured rate 30 percent lower this year than in 2013. And healthcare spending grew slower in 2013 than it had in the past 53 years. Oh, and the law helped save 50,000 lives because it's made hospitals safer. Enrollments have outpaced expectations, and it looks like the uninsured rate could reach historic lows by the end of this enrollment period.
Twelve months of Obamacare show that, despite all the politics, the policy continues to work and work very, very well. But you won't hear that from the traditional media, because the political story is the only one they seem capable of reporting any more.